Alabama coach Nick Saban is, at his roots, a tried and true West Virginian. Saban, the son of working-class parents from nearby Monongah, W.Va., shared a few memories Monday of his childhood as a diehard Mountaineer fan.
Saban's Crimson Tide will face West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Saturday in Atlanta. He played college ball at Kent State and spent the 1978-79 seasons as assistant coach at West Virginia.
"Oh yeah," he said Monday, "[West Virginia] was the biggest thing going when I was a kid. Going to Mountaineer Field to watch West Virginia play was the highlight of my year. I still have great memories of home, I have great memories of the people and relationships I have at home, and I've always been a Mountaineer fan.
"I remember as a kid, sitting in old Mountaineer field house. I used to sit in the upper deck with my feet hanging over, looking between the rails watching Jerry West play. I was probably only 7, 8, 9 years old. I remember listening to my little brown transistor radio when [Cal's] Darrall Imhoff hit a jump shot to end a game in 1960, I think it was, to win 71-70 in the national championship game. [It was 1959.] You don't forget stuff like that.
"But now I'm Alabama's coach now, so I'm an Alabama fan. We don't really have to be concerned with any of that. We have to do what's best for our team and the relationships we have here. But we also respect their traditions and the relationships we've developed though the years in West Virginia."